by Greg Markley

Political Writer


Another nationally-known business appears headed to the Tiger Town area after the Opelika Planning Commission on Tuesday granted its approval for construction of a Steak ‘n Shake on Interstate Drive, close to Waffle House. Based in Indianapolis, Ind. the company is famous for its “Steakburgers” and hand-dipped milk shakes.

Opelika Planning Director Jerry Kelley noted that there was a 60-foot gas line running parallel to Interstate Drive that had to be dealt with. But Anil Dossani, owner of the Opelika franchise, said groundbreaking will be in early January 2013 and that he expects his store to open in April. The restaurant will cover 3,500 square feet and employ 90-plus workers, Dossani said.

“Zoning is not an issue in Tiger Town because of the PUD (Planned Unit Development) zoning and the private covenant and restrictions which are in place., Kelley said. “Only a subdivision of property to create a parcel for Steak and Shake is required via Planning Commission approval.”

Currently, the Steak ‘n Shake on Bradley Park Drive in Columbus, Ga. is the closest one to Lee County. The Opelika store marks the fifth in Alabama for the company. Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller did not attend the OPC meeting because he is out-of-town on city business.

“The Planning Commission is not generally involved in where a commercial venture, such as Steak ‘n Shake, locates,” Fuller explained. “Of course the PC would make sure the zoning is correct and that the exterior materials (if it’s in a Gateway District) meet requirements. The PC along with Planning Staff, Public Works & Engineering will look at transportation, storm water and sanitary sewer issues as it relates to a new business. Most of this is not a problem at TigerTown because the infrastructure is already in place.”

The mayor is enthusiastic when he sees companies like Steak ‘n Shake opening restaurants here. He predicted more development on the south side of I-85. “We have the two hotel properties now and will soon have a Carmike Cinema,” Fuller reflected. “The widening of Frederick Road will create more opportunities on that corridor, as well.”

“I am delighted and feel positive about the continued interest and development occurring at Interchange #58.  I believe the Gateway Corridor I Overlay District provides the regulatory measures in place to attract development in which the aesthetic features of building materials and landscaping is an asset for the community and those businesses desiring to locate in Opelika,” Kelley said.

Also approved was final plat conditional use of a lot at the corner of 24th Street and 1st Avenue for construction of a 3,000-square-foot medical office.

Dr. Eric Hemberg, an MD for 37 years with a family practice in Opelika, owns the property.

Hemberg said the office would be the location of a family practice clinic; also, a new cardiology clinic would be built nearby within the next year. (The site is a former parking lot for Pepperell Mill.)

The two Conditional Use approvals mean the next step is the Opelika City Council weighing in on the requests. That panel meets on Tuesday, Dec. 4.